How to Make Friends
January 4, 2019 10:22 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I have started a practice we call The Friendship Meal. What happens is something like this: we take a person or a couple and invite them to come have dinner with us. It’s almost always a disorienting thing to begin with — we don’t know them, they don’t know us, and everyone’s pretty shy. And sometimes the meals stay there: shyness and lack of connection, we eat and go separate ways. But sometimes that special spark happens, and, all-of-a-sudden, the conversations last for hours. And that makes the risk worth it!

It can be hard to make or keep friends. It is hard in high school, in college, at a new job, after moving to a new city, after moving to a new country, and after aging past 40.

One article, excerpted below, claims there are five science-backed ways to make friends as an adult.

The sociologist Ruut Veenhoven and his team have collected happiness data from ninety-one countries, representing two-thirds of the world’s population. He has concluded that Denmark is home to the happiest people in the world, with Switzerland close behind… Interestingly enough, one of the more detailed points of the research found that 92 percent of the people in Denmark are members of some sort of group, ranging from sports to cultural interests. To avoid loneliness, we must seek active social lives, maintain friendships, and enjoy stable relationships.

...What’s the best way to make sure you’re in a group? Start one. That makes it a lot easier to stay in touch and a lot easier to manage those big 5 friendships with 20% of the effort. A weekly lunch. A monthly sewing circle. A quarterly movie night. Whatever works. Friends bring friends and suddenly it’s not so hard to meet cool new people. And who does everyone have to thank for this? You.
posted by Bella Donna (88 comments total) 93 users marked this as a favorite
 
I used to throw dinner parties where you weren't allowed to come unless you brought someone who was a stranger to everyone else. It was a good way to meet new people.
posted by dobbs at 11:16 AM on January 4 [40 favorites]


nice try dobbs but I've read some murder mysteries in my day and I am clicking "no" on that evite
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:18 AM on January 4 [156 favorites]


Even the friendship dinner in the article sounded like the start of a murder. I may have trust issues, though.
posted by greermahoney at 11:20 AM on January 4 [24 favorites]


lumpenprole, I once threw a dinner party in my bedroom. I put the bed on its side. I was in college so that probably accounts for it. One of the problems I have with the idea of tiny homes is that I, personally, prefer the ability to invite people over for dinner. But now I rent a room from someone and have no ability to invite people over and it kills me. Turns out that inviting people over for dinner or tea is kind of my core idea of home. If I can't do that, then it doesn't feel like home.

Also, want to note that Sweden ranked as the worst place to make friends in 2017 for expats. No part of that surprises me. There was a whole series in Dagens Nyheter (a big daily newspaper) sometime in the early to mid 2000s that reported on exactly that fact. Sigh. Still, I have to believe there is hope for me and for all of us in making new friends.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:23 AM on January 4 [13 favorites]


Extroverts, man, I tell you what.
posted by BeeDo at 11:26 AM on January 4 [88 favorites]


As an introvert I'd view the "don't come unless you bring a new person" requirement as a tacit admission the host did not want me to turn up.
posted by jzb at 11:27 AM on January 4 [65 favorites]


Yeah, that would kill the evening for me as well. I will note that the article linked to above about moving to a new city was written by someone who identifies as an introvert. I did not notice dragging other people to dinners as one of his tactics, but maybe I skimmed too quickly (joke).
posted by Bella Donna at 11:40 AM on January 4


I've moved to three different states in the past 3 years and I have strongly come down on the side of "don't try and make friends but instead find activities/groups you enjoy".
posted by Automocar at 11:40 AM on January 4 [21 favorites]


I love dinner parties. I love hosting them and I love attending them. So much better than the "mingle around a crowded room full of strangers asking everyone how they know the host" sorts of parties, which I usually hate.

Mefi meetups are very often like dinner parties. Sit down at a table full of strangers. If nothing else, you can talk about the food.

It took me a long time before I was comfortable in such situations, and occasionally I'm still not comfortable, but like any phobia, I think exposure and practice is key.
posted by bondcliff at 11:42 AM on January 4 [16 favorites]


I'm with Automocar on this one. This strikes me the same way that any "intentional community" does. You aren't any more likely to meet new and interesting people. Quite the opposite in fact, you're much more likely to meet "fakey", shallow people looking for a express lane to solving a problem.

But that's just me.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:57 AM on January 4 [5 favorites]


3) The next step is crucial! After you DTT, wait a period of time, and then refer back to the thing you divulged to them! You are creating an inside joke. THE FOUNDATION OF FRIENDSHIP.

This does not work on me. I find it creepy and it makes me think that person does not have many things to talk about, which must be why they keep bringing up the same thing. Or that the person has a creepy level of interest in creating a shared foundation with me. It feels exactly like time-share psychology and redpill-type forced intimacy and no thanks.
posted by Miko at 12:00 PM on January 4 [16 favorites]


What happens is something like this: we take a person or a couple and invite them to come have dinner with us.

This is one of those things that goes in the bucket of things you can't do unless you have a partner, isn't it? Yay.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:04 PM on January 4 [19 favorites]


We tried out the Crappy Dinner Party a few years ago and it was a great thing--been meaning to get back in the swing of it, especially now that we've settled into our new place.
posted by duffell at 12:11 PM on January 4 [14 favorites]


My wife and I are both introverts and we're so happy when we get a whole weekend without any social obligations.
posted by octothorpe at 12:12 PM on January 4 [36 favorites]


I love meeting new people and making new friends, but I also have this bias toward old friends that can make it difficult to really connect with anyone new. There are lots of awesome people out there who I would like to know better, but at the same time, how can anyone ever measure up to these people who I have loved and admired since I was 10/15/20 years old? Thoughtlessly, I tend to go back to the same handful of people I've known since adolescence or earlier, and lose touch with the newer people.

I've been good about consciously and conscientiously prioritizing my long-standing relationships with friends and family, but this makes me think I need to appreciate and nurture my newer friendships more than I have been.

This year, I hosted a Halloween party, and invited pretty much everyone I know who I felt comfortable having in my house, old friends and new. The turnout was good and it was a lot of fun. I'm not sure if anyone became closer as a result, though. I mean, it was a fun time, but none of the people who didn't know each other really hit it off and became friends, it seems like?

I also love dinner parties and try to throw them at least a few times a year, but I usually prefer when those are very small, like four people or so, so you get to really talk (and eat a real meal, not some version of cocktail party food). Hm. I think those are better for forging/strengthening actual friendships rather than just having a blast one night. I am already planning a dinner party for a couple weeks from now, but now I'm thinking maybe I should throw some sort of Valentine's Day party, too....

In summary, people are cool and gathering them together is fun.

This is one of those things that goes in the bucket of things you can't do unless you have a partner, isn't it? Yay.

I'm single and I still try to do this, but of course, it's MUCH easier as a couple. That said, if I'm inviting a couple to something, I do ask that they bring a friend (if they can). The friend doesn't have to be someone "eligible," it's not some kind of date set-up or something. I just think it rounds out the group better to have more than one single person there, especially seeing as I don't currently have an SO myself.
posted by rue72 at 12:14 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


The last time I got an invite like this the guy asked me to have sex with him and his girlfriend.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:24 PM on January 4 [52 favorites]


I am single. I throw dinner parties when I am coupled and when I am not. Works for me.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:25 PM on January 4 [9 favorites]


If you're hosting and not intending to throw a Sex Party, best to avoid use of seemingly innocuous phrases like "Swing on by" or "we'll see where the evening takes us"
posted by duffell at 12:27 PM on January 4 [59 favorites]


I have a friend who I met through a MeFi meetup and who did this for me (an out of the blue MeMail saying "it was nice to meet you at that meetup and would you like to come over for [thing]?") and it was the first step in a chain of events that took me from being lonely and bored to being surrounded by a group of wonderful people that I spend a lot of time with.

I still struggle to turn these relationships into closer friendships because of social anxiety, which in turn has led to me being really out of practice with social relationships. But some version of "just invite people to do stuff" is a New Year's resolution for me this year so we'll see where that goes.
posted by capricorn at 12:39 PM on January 4 [24 favorites]


nice try dobbs but I've read some murder mysteries in my day and I am clicking "no" on that evite

Clearly not enough or you would know the correct response is to hire a private detective to accompany you to the dinner, at which someone ELSE will be murdered.
posted by corb at 12:44 PM on January 4 [23 favorites]


The last time I got an invite like this the guy asked me to have sex with him and his girlfriend.

Well, don't leave us hanging! How was it?
posted by spacewrench at 12:45 PM on January 4 [38 favorites]


A while ago, there was a similar post about hosting a Friday night "Spaghetti Dinner" for your neighborhood.
My family took that and sort of came up with a hybrid of that and this idea, in that we have a simple, no-frills spaghetti dinner and invite two couples that we either don't know very well or that don't know each other very well.

Mostly we invited other parents at school or other kids activities, so it has slowed down a bit since we all know each other at this point.
I don't know that we made any "friends" as such, but it definitely strengthened the community and societal connections as you often meet the children on teams and at school, but the parents remain sort of nebulous figures.
posted by madajb at 12:52 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


As an introvert, I can't decide which is worse, inviting strangers to dinner or being the stranger invited to dinner.
posted by tommasz at 12:53 PM on January 4 [41 favorites]


I used to throw lots of dinner parties when I was single. Granted it was mostly people I knew, but I really liked bringing together friends who had never met. Just recently we hosted a holiday party and invited a bunch of neighbors, some of whom we knew, others whom we did not. We made new friends! It was lovely.

Obviously YMMV depending on your tolerance for socializing, but it is an effective way to get to know people and "break the ice."
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:56 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


What should a person who likes people generally but doesn't want to spend time with most of them do? Asking for a ... well, clearly not a friend.
posted by roue at 1:03 PM on January 4 [20 favorites]


The twist is ...”How to Make Friends” is a cookbook!
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:03 PM on January 4 [49 favorites]


I love dinner parties. Years ago I threw a MeFi meet-up at my house because I so love dinner parties. I also like potlucks, drop-by cocktails etc. My best friend is frequently amused when I tell her I look forward to any excuse for doing anything because I might make a new friend. Sometimes it happens, though, and it’s awesome.

I’m also literally the only admitted extrovert I know, so...
posted by thivaia at 1:11 PM on January 4 [7 favorites]


I still struggle to turn these relationships into closer friendships because of social anxiety

My social anxiety also demands that I post a follow-up comment to clarify what I meant here because I'm worried it might read differently than I intended it; I mostly just mean I'm still not good at initiating one-on-one contact with friends, with offering assistance and support, or with being vulnerable and opening up (without going all the way to the other side and being overbearing).
posted by capricorn at 1:15 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


(BD you're welcome to invite folks over to our place)
posted by St. Oops at 1:19 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Clearly not enough or you would know the correct response is to hire a private detective to accompany you to the dinner, at which someone ELSE will be murdered.

Excuse me but you have failed to recognize that this is very obviously pbo's sadly transparent attempt at establishing an alibi in advance of future dinner crimes.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:21 PM on January 4 [20 favorites]


I recently had a sort of open house thing - I did a big declutter after ...yadda yadda... and not having more than a couple of people come over in years. I think maybe doing this regularly could be my accountability to keeping my apartment in good shape.

I'm not sure I'm at MeFi meetup level yet though.
posted by wellred at 1:24 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Giving old habits new names with capital letters gets up my nose, but I have found that having people over to eat does help a lot with making friends. It's not guaranteed with anyone, and sometimes it's years after I thought ``well, I guess they didn't want to" that someone reciprocates, but works better than anything else. It even works at work, although like greeting cards it's been pared down to the minimal case (bad donuts in the breakroom).

I am not quite brave enough to put my address online for a MeFi meetup, but trifle in the park for Shakespeare was fun this year and I'll do it again next year, Seattlites.

I think it's easier if there's a weak manners framework everyone agrees on so no-one is too nervous of what might be expected of them -- I don't think it matters very much what the framework is, but without it we accidentally offend each other. Now, if we manage to talk through what we each expected and how sorry we are to have offended each other, that is an advance in civility, but what a risky strategy!
posted by clew at 1:29 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


(Also, the number of MeFi in-jokes I want to build into any explicit meetup here is high and increasing. Somehow the mystery has to be related to turning all the books fore-edges out.)
posted by clew at 1:30 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


That article on `there are five science-backed ways to make friends as an adult.' really puts me off with its concentration on how much measurable worldly good having friends will do me, though. It's like articles on how being `a creative' will make me more employable.
posted by clew at 1:44 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


The next step is crucial! After you DTT, wait a period of time, and then refer back to the thing you divulged to them! You are creating an inside joke. THE FOUNDATION OF FRIENDSHIP.

Just don't do this when other people are there unless you explain the joke. Inside joking with people around who are not in on the joke is a great way to make people go away and stay away. There are lots of seemingly innocuous things that people do that actively drive outsiders away and this is a big one. Another is establishing too strong of a group culture. Most groups eventually devolve into a tyranny of the majority and if you pay attention you will notice that the minorities tend to disappear after their preferences are steamrolled by the majority a few times.
posted by srboisvert at 1:46 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


One of my two best friends passed away two years ago. Sixty years we were friends. The last fifty- four, best friends. It sucked, it sucks and it will suck til I die.

My other best friend is twelve hundred miles away for the past year. But we call each other five or six times a month for thirty+ minute conversations. Sometimes hour long conversations. And we also exchange emails. Usually with links to topics of common or perceived new interest.

Other than that I just have my friends on metafilter. Hundreds of them. They just have not met me and don't know they are my friends. But they are.
posted by notreally at 1:59 PM on January 4 [79 favorites]


Extrovert here. I delight in meeting people.
In my 20s I had all kinds of ways of doing this: through work (a bookstore), through classes (grad school), and just by approaching interesting folks.

Then my wife and I had children.

A lot of those ways went right out the window. We were too tired to socialize for the first year. Not being with the baby was disorienting, uncanny. All we could think about was baby, We were also too tired to realize how many of our childless/childfree friends quietly disengaged.

Then we started socializing with adults through child activities - playgrounds, people we met on walks. I was astonished at how immediately we could connect with other parents. Just being visible caregivers of children swiftly granted us conversation and the sharing of odd intimacies.

As our first child grew older, and we added a second, that realm became our social center. For me, work loomed even larger.

It took a long, long time, until the youngest was in his late teens, before we started doing pre-child meeting of folks.
posted by doctornemo at 2:15 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Overheard at the slkinsey dinner table:
"The murderer is right in this room. Sitting at this table.

You may serve the fish."
posted by slkinsey at 2:23 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


Clearly not enough or you would know the correct response is to hire a private detective to accompany you to the dinner, at which someone ELSE will be murdered.

Or at least bring Jeeves, for goodness' sake.
posted by praemunire at 3:02 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


So 13 year olds are now the NYT’s target demographic?
posted by Ideefixe at 3:09 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


There are two things I recommend to every 20-something year old. Take an improv class and see a therapist.

Listen, UCB, I know you've been having a tough time, but this is no time for the hard sell.
posted by belarius at 3:34 PM on January 4 [14 favorites]


My other best friend is twelve hundred miles away for the past year. But we call each other five or six times a month for thirty+ minute conversations.

Just a thought. Have you used Marco Polo? It’s basically asynchronous Skype, and it has completely transformed my relationships. I’m thousands of miles away from my friends and family, and I no longer have to worry about time zones. I’m closer to those friends than I’ve been since I moved coasts 14 years ago. Many of us now speak daily or at least weekly. (I still do Skype calls, as well, as they’re better for some topics.)
posted by greermahoney at 3:38 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


at least bring Jeeves

If I bring my batman, we have to think about vails again. Next thing you know we're arguing about hunting clergy and deceased wife's sister. Really, are we ready for that? I'm ready. I'm SO ready. Anyone else ready is invited to dinner.
posted by clew at 3:42 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


I dunno man. The people in the picture on that Crappy Dinner Party link have a table runner. What do they just have that out all the time? That’s pretty fucking fancy.
posted by greermahoney at 3:43 PM on January 4 [7 favorites]


Speaking of meeting people by doing interesting things.

My partner and I spent 10 weeks this fall attending a support group for parents of teenagers in crisis (we have a profoundly depressed, treatment-resistant teen). I liked everyone in the group, but one woman in particular, I felt really drawn to and wished I could talk to more. Today I got a message from her asking if I'd like to get coffee sometime soon, as she had felt very connected to me in the group.

I was like, wow. 2018 was, by a large margin, the worst year of my life, filled with unrelenting despair, every single day the kind of day that makes you say, "I don't think I can keep doing this," except that you do. You get up and you keep doing it. And somehow, in the middle of that horrible, horrible mess, I managed to make a new friend. It's like the first daffodil of spring, except that there's no guarantee spring is coming for us--four days in, 2019 hasn't been any better than 2018. But I got a daffodil.

She and her husband, who was also in the group, met in a support group for bereaved spouses. Which is the second-best getting together story I've heard, after these lesbians who met in the maternity ward way back in the 70s, when they were both married to men and having their babies.

Many years ago, like 1988, I was a young sprig of a graduate student, and I read about some person who had a lot of friends, and the writer asked her, "How is it you have so many friends?" She said, "When I think someone is interesting, I invite them to dinner. Sometimes we become friends." I tried that for awhile. I don't think I made any friends that way but I did have some interesting dinners, and some awkward ones.
posted by Orlop at 3:47 PM on January 4 [33 favorites]


...I have found that having people over to eat does help a lot with making friends. It's not guaranteed with anyone, and sometimes it's years after I thought "well, I guess they didn't want to" that someone reciprocates

Highlighting clew's comment here -- it me. After years of being super-social, I've moved into a period of my life where I just don't have the capacity to maintain friendships as well as I have in the past, and I am especially unable to invest time and energy into new friendships. I see, and so appreciate, invites and "friend-feelers" put out by new people, but don't have the mojo to return the serve back over the net. I would hate if the person putting out friend-feelers interprets my lack of reciprocity to be any reflection on them or on the activity of making new friends.

Being in this low-mojo state has helped me understand the people who have in the past not reciprocated my overtures of friendship. It is so not personal, and it also isn't a lack of understanding of the proper way to reciprocate, at least not on my part. It's just a complete lack of energy because that energy is being taken by other things. It is a good reason to cultivate both close and peripheral friends -- sometimes your close friends may have Life Happen in a way that takes them out of your inner circle and a peripheral friend may step up in a new way.
posted by rogerroger at 3:56 PM on January 4 [7 favorites]


I feel like trying to make friends is like trying to be happy: if you're trying too hard, it doesn't happen. It has to be a byproduct of something else. This whole article rang false to me for that reason.
posted by millipede at 4:08 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


I have to say, that I’ve come to translate “I’m an introvert” as “I don’t want to put work into my friendships.” There are exceptions to this of course, but I’m pretty tired of organizing all the events and dinner parties.
posted by raccoon409 at 4:31 PM on January 4 [15 favorites]


I liked the "Crappy Dinner Party" concept. My friend Laur hosts a 'sit down dinner' every Sunday night. I cook half the time, she takes the other times. (I live four miles away -- most stuff travels fairly well and that which does not can be made on site.) The only thing we clean off is the kitchen table where people eat. Recent offerings have included... kolbassi n kraut, potato-leek soup (comes in 'basic' or 'fancy'. Basic is just the soup, 'fancy' comes with home-made sourdough rye dunking croutons, like a toast soldier only crouton-ized), tacos, chili, pierogies, wave-ohs (it's a dippy-egg, refried beans, green Stokes, tortilla thing that is too Americanized to be a "huevos".), ham/green beans/potatoes, chicken pot pie (PA dutch, the kind with no gravy.) -- the menus aren't super-fancy but we have a good time. In summer when the tomatoes, jalapenos, and mint are free from the garden, sometimes we have Chips And Salsa and Mojitos. Those are spectacular dinners.

Sunday Dinner doesn't quite make new friends so much as it maintains the friends we already have... but that's also important.
posted by which_chick at 4:37 PM on January 4 [9 favorites]


I have to say, that I’ve come to translate “I’m an introvert” as “I don’t want to put work into my friendships.” There are exceptions to this of course, but I’m pretty tired of organizing all the events and dinner parties.

As a card-carrying introvert, I can say that if frequent events and dinner parties are mandatory for us to be friends, I might accept a downgrade to "friendly acquaintance."
posted by delfin at 5:21 PM on January 4 [23 favorites]


We started hosting informal dinner parties pretty frequently a few years ago, largely because my spouse likes to cook, and is good at it (which helps a lot). It's really easy to drift away from people if you don't have a reason to see them semi-frequently, so it's a nice way to work against that. For me, the best part is that I don't have to go anywhere and it's hard to bail on, which I'm often tempted to do with other social events. It is also a good motivator to keep our home vaguely tidied up a lot of the time.
posted by ghharr at 5:45 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


I have to say, that I’ve come to translate “I’m an introvert” as “I don’t want to put work into my friendships.” There are exceptions to this of course, but I’m pretty tired of organizing all the events and dinner parties.

I think of myself as an introvert, and for all the people I've hosted in my home, I've received a fraction of reciprocal invites - I don't generally think much about this unless something such as raccoon409's comment calls it to mind. But I actually prefer hosting parties because then I can keep them the way I want them (small! quiet! free of anyone who might be referred to as the "life of the party").

That said, a few months ago I invited some random people who didn't know each other over for dinner. While I freaked out in the kitchen over various mishaps, they formed a mutual appreciation society. Together they were kind of overwhelmingly rowdy and bawdy for me - but they were all friending each other on FB and wanting phone numbers at the end of the night. It was sweet.
posted by bunderful at 5:48 PM on January 4 [16 favorites]


I tend to think that people need to spend time together in order to cook a friendship. This is why my friendships come from groups and/or other friends and why trying to make friends with someone whose life doesn't really overlap with yours doesn't tend to fly so well. I have met some people I'd love to be friends with, but I don't see them much or only met them once and you know it just can't happen logically. You can try, but they probably won't respond.

As doctornemo points out, that's why parents are friends with other parents and (in my experience) can't really maintain friendships with non-parents until the kids are older.

"There are two things I recommend to every 20-something year old. Take an improv class and see a therapist.

Listen, UCB, I know you've been having a tough time, but this is no time for the hard sell."


Hahahahahaah! But that said, I did those things in my 30's and loved 'em.

" I see, and so appreciate, invites and "friend-feelers" put out by new people, but don't have the mojo to return the serve back over the net. I would hate if the person putting out friend-feelers interprets my lack of reciprocity to be any reflection on them or on the activity of making new friends.
Being in this low-mojo state has helped me understand the people who have in the past not reciprocated my overtures of friendship. It is so not personal, and it also isn't a lack of understanding of the proper way to reciprocate, at least not on my part. It's just a complete lack of energy because that energy is being taken by other things.


Yup. I am trying to maintain a long distance long term friendship but 90% of the time I don't think she has the energy to respond any more and well...nothing I can do about it other than poke her once in a while to see if she's still alive. She's actually trying more than usual right now even though she's not happy, so there's that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:01 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


Inside joking with people around who are not in on the joke is a great way to make people go away and stay away.

Important tip, introverts!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:49 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


"The way to make friends, Andy, is invite them up for tea."
posted by allthinky at 7:34 PM on January 4


I am a little alarmed at people in this thread using "introvert" to mean "incapable of meeting new people". Introverts feel loneliness too! Loneliness can still damage their mental health! Ask me how I know!

Unfortunately to stave off that poisonous loneliness you're going to have to go out and meet people eventually, and keep at it for long enough that you'll see them outside that shared activity.

Things I have done that have been successful:
  • Book clubs. The failure rate of this is high because many loud people join book clubs because they feel like they should read more (status anxiety is for everyone) but the secret appears to be to pick a book club that has a theme that attracts the sort of people you'd be interesting in talking to. I'm a member of a Bill Gates Reading List book club.
  • Tabletop roleplaying is where a lot of my friend circle comes from. You have to be judicious here, because there's a lot of nerds that aren't housetrained and they make the whole thing a huge burden (if you think this might be you, guess what: your priority is now to learn how to make others comfortable around you). Unlike book clubs, it's an activity where people will actively subvert the intended purpose of the group to talk about other stuff without it devolving into a disaster, and you will make friends this way if you've got a good group. Then, invite them to things!
  • Theoretically movie clubs should also work, but I've never had too much luck with them. I think, to find your people, you need something that has a little bit of a barrier to entry, and movie clubs often don't. One thing I have done to maintain friendships is hold movie marathons where I pick three movies with thematic variation and a common theme (e.g. losing time: Groundhog Day/Looper/The Girl Who Leapt Through Time or iconic hats: Raiders of the Lost Ark/Wayne's World/The Good, The Bad and The Ugly). Because they're movies, you don't have to do a lot of the socialising heavy lifting, but if you cook it becomes a rather manageable dinner party.
posted by Merus at 8:09 PM on January 4 [9 favorites]


Delfin, a genuine question - what do you do with your friends as (an) introvert(s)? (I could have extended the list to also include coffee dates, meals, getting nails done, going to the dog park etc) I cant imagine friendships that I’m forming to not be centered around meeting up with people (long standing friendships have taken all forms in my life including “we only see each other every 5 years and when we see each other it’s like no time has passed at all” and “we text everyday.”
posted by raccoon409 at 8:17 PM on January 4


Book clubs. The failure rate of this is high because many loud people join book clubs because they feel like they should read more

Silent book clubs might also work because you ideally spend most of your time quietly reading instead of talking or hearing others talk.
posted by FJT at 8:35 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


As an introvert who still requires socializing for mental health reasons, I’ve found what stresses me out is not the socializing as such (actually, I like people and love a chat), but specific expectations and feeling trapped, for lack of a better word. If something is high-stakes (like, you have this one dinner party or meetup to make a good impression...), I’m pretty much guaranteed to hate it and avoid it. What I do is regularly frequent the same setting (coffeeshop) and I’ve made real friends that way. Ironically I probably put more time into my socializing than the extroverts I know, but it’s lower intensity since I’m not required to come and I can leave at any time. (There are also always strangers there so we don’t need to bring any.)
posted by The Toad at 8:39 PM on January 4 [9 favorites]


“I’m an introvert” as “I don’t want to put work into my friendships.”

That’s fair. When someone says “I’m an extrovert” I hear it as, “Pay attention to me!”

And then I just smile and let them talk.

:)
posted by FJT at 9:22 PM on January 4 [12 favorites]


I might have sounded a little harsh above but we really do end up with at least one party/brunch/outing to go to every weekend and sometimes more than one. Getting an entire weekend where we can just watch TV and tidy up the house and maybe go to a movie seems so luxurious after having to deal with other humans all week.

After weeks and weeks of holiday gatherings, staying with family and then having a house guest this week, my wife and I went to a museum, got Thai and saw The Favorite in the theater tonight and it just felt so wonderful to just be with each other and not have to be nice to anyone.
posted by octothorpe at 9:45 PM on January 4


my wife and I do this (feed them at our table) with our neighbors, occasionally over protest. it's awesome. so far only once has it not led to a deepened relationship, and even that one kinda did, it was just awkward.
posted by mwhybark at 9:57 PM on January 4


Years ago my wife and I frequented a favorite restaurant in Berkeley. It was very popular with wait times up to 2 hours. They didn't take reservations unless you had a party of 8. So we would make such a reservation, get there about 15 minutes early and troll the large bar randomly inviting strangers to join us. (explaining our game) We would get a few shocked refusals, but always filled the table and had a wonderful time with our new acquaintances. (and we never got burned)
posted by shnarg at 10:54 PM on January 4 [43 favorites]


Omg that’s genius. I love it.
posted by greermahoney at 10:56 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Inside joking with people around who are not in on the joke is a great way to make people go away and stay away.

We used to call this "an outside joke."
posted by rhizome at 12:00 AM on January 5


If I invited my friends to a get together and told them there would be people there they didn't know most of them wouldn't come.
posted by bongo_x at 1:23 AM on January 5 [3 favorites]


I work in retail at a famous store with lots of foot traffic. I am the obnoxious cashier who frequently tries to chat with people about their purchases or whatever else is at hand.

I love talking to people, and it’s usually hard to get me to shut up, but by the time I get home I’m ready to stay in. I’m some ways my chattiness at work satisfies my social needs, but in other ways it falls short, especially in the sense of having long-term connections. I’m not sure what the ideal is — I generally don’t like doing stuff that forges those kinds of friendships, including dinner parties (in fact, I think I hate dinner parties more than most activities).

Like medicine and really anything else related to people, it’s hard to come up with a single set of needs and best practices that will encompass the reality for everyone.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:45 AM on January 5 [4 favorites]


To all those folks who think this sounds like the start of a murder movie... consider the Scooby effect: Fred, Daphne, Velma and Shaggy all hang out together quth Shaggy's dog precisely because of murder and mystery. If your life is big budget l, be worried. If your life is long and drawn out and might be a true detective style show - be concerned (but, you will likely make it a few episodes). But if your life is a series of semi comical mishaps - you are in mother fuckin Scooby Doo...
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:09 AM on January 5 [1 favorite]


One of my best friends is an extrovert.


Kidding. That’s actually the case, though, and I am often the one tracking her down because she is always off doing extrovert things. My personal introversion is the kind that likes to do the planning so I can have some say in the environment and company. But I do long to meet new people, and knowing a few extroverts and making myself go do their stuff sometimes is most of how I do it.
posted by wellred at 5:11 AM on January 5


Yeahhh, it varies a lot. I got tired of having my/my spouse's plans bailed on by an extrovert who always found something better/more dramatic to do after rsvp'ing yes, then went on and on about how much they "missed" us. We stopped inviting them. I had more empathy for the "sorry, I can't even after all" introverts.

All kinds of people bail for all kinds of reasons, it feels like crap to be bailed on, try not to say you'll do a thing unless you really mean it, and I guess let people off the hook unless they're awful in other ways (still working on that part).

2019 is going to be a horrorshow of trying all these things, so this is well timed. Thanks for posting.
posted by cage and aquarium at 6:04 AM on January 5 [2 favorites]


Delfin, a genuine question - what do you do with your friends as (an) introvert(s)? (I could have extended the list to also include coffee dates, meals, getting nails done, going to the dog park etc) I cant imagine friendships that I’m forming to not be centered around meeting up with people (long standing friendships have taken all forms in my life including “we only see each other every 5 years and when we see each other it’s like no time has passed at all” and “we text everyday.”

"Hey, do you want to come over and hang out tonight?" "Sure."

The Toad's comment above nailed it. Socializing on an informal basis with people that I'm comfortable with? Yeah, that sounds like a good evening. But when you turn it into an event or a party with associated social expectations and a widely expanded cast of characters, and I find myself mentally planning out an exit strategy before I even get there... I'm more likely to beg out of it than attend, because that's way outside of my comfort zone.

Case in point: my cousin just got married about three months ago. A happy occasion all around; he's great, his new wife is great, happy family members all around, all is well, right? Except I was absolutely dreading it from the moment that the invitation arrived. Because that meant dressing up in a monkey suit, going to the reception, sitting in an assigned seat across from people I don't know, being expected to be there for several hours, nodding politely at the various parts of the Wedding Reception Ritual, counting the exits to the room and memorizing the distance to each, people coming around about whom I'm thinking "if I wanted to talk to you, I have your phone number, and you'll notice that I haven't used it in six years," oh god they're shifting to the All The Young People Get Up And Dance section of the evening, the DJ is actually playing YMCA and some of these people actually look happy about it, and by that point my wife looked at me and said "let's get out of here" and we made as polite an exit as we could manage.

And that was a wedding, a one-time event. Imagine my horror if a friend of mine wanted to throw a Let's All Get Together And Socialize event, like, every few weeks.

Introversion doesn't mean full hermitage. But it does mean that we may vastly prefer social interaction to be consumed in smaller bites.
posted by delfin at 7:17 AM on January 5 [5 favorites]


I wouldn't be able to accept a dinner party invitation from someone I don't know well because I have food allergies, and enough of them that it's not just "please no mushrooms" or something minor. I can't eat at other people's houses unless it's a situation where I can easily find out what's in everything. Unless they also have food allergies, my allergy list is a really, really awkward thing to explain to a new person.

Also as an introvert I am never, ever taking an improv class. OMG no.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:17 AM on January 5 [4 favorites]


Sometimes I question the whole introvert/extrovert thing. I refer to myself as an introvert largely because it's an easy way to explain why I'm leaving your party after an hour, overwhelmed. But I do crave company and get really lonely. I think it's harder to form those close, comfortable friendships where you can comfortably just hang out - harder for me, anyway.

I can think of lots of people I would invite to a dinner party who would very likely show up - the threshold for that invitation is relatively low: we have met at least a couple of times, they haven't done anything to make my alarm bells go off, they seem to like me and they seem like they'd accept the sort of dinner party I can offer (thrift store table cloth, mismatched silverware, budget ingredients cooked simply, bedroom barricaded because that's where all the clutter was moved 30 minutes before guests arrived).

Inviting one person over to eat or hang out is harder, more vulnerable. The invite alone means that there's more to our relationship than "you seem like you're probably okay as a person and you eat food." A solo invite says "I really like YOU and I feel at ease in your presence, and I don't think you'll feel that just hanging out with me is boring or a waste of your time." There are probably more people who would say yes to this than I know, but to me it feels far more risky than the dinner party invite. I would love to do it far more often than I do.
posted by bunderful at 8:31 AM on January 5 [5 favorites]


Whereas the solo invite says "I feel at ease in your presence, and I don't think you'll feel that just hanging out with me is boring or a waste of your time," but the dinner party invite says "I feel at ease in your presence, and expect that when you are placed into an environment with several other people whom you do not know as well or may not know at all, you will act and socialize in a way that will make each of them ALSO feel at ease in your presence."

And that's pressure.

I sometimes flash back to something Hunter S. Thompson wrote about interviewing Muhammad Ali, and how Ali (like anyone else) had circles of trust around him, layers of barriers surrounding him to protect his privacy and control how he was perceived by the world around him. HST rambled on about how he felt like he'd been let through the third barrier, but he wouldn't stop until he'd gotten through at least the fifth or sixth, "and that's as far as I'll ever get, because Ali's smart enough that I'll never even see where the eighth or ninth begin." I don't have the exact wording handy, but it was words to that effect.

To me, that's the difference between extroversion and introversion. Everyone has their innermost self, their secrets, their vulnerabilities, their parts of themselves that they keep to themselves and share only with their most trusted people, if at all. But the extrovert not only leaves their outer layers wide open, but expects that others will do the same; the introvert puts up a hard protective shell much earlier, and needs substantially more persuasion to allow themselves to get past surface interaction with others.
posted by delfin at 8:55 AM on January 5 [2 favorites]


I have to say, that I’ve come to translate “I’m an introvert” as “I don’t want to put work into my friendships.” There are exceptions to this of course, but I’m pretty tired of organizing all the events and dinner parties.

I've had some issues like this too. When I've lived in larger houses, I'd often do a "Hey everyone come over and we'll have a big meal or six" sorts of weekends which were often a good time. And yet as I got older and shifted personally from an E to an I (and my general friend group did also), I found that sometimes these were more challenging. That inviting introverts to your house for the weekend could be tough for you and tough for them. So I do dofferent stuff when I want to socialize. Meet up at a local bar for trivia, open invite, people who can make it can make it, people who want to just swing by, super. Not everyone is up for trivia so sometimes we'll do open invite TV parties ("Come watch the game") or board game night ("Come play a game") or even "Hey I am making a food want to come over and chat with me and then we'll eat the food afterwards?"

I have to say it's easier with someone else (I have a partner but an LDR one) because it's easier to leave a party early in a couple, it's easier to deflect "Come on participate in this aspect of this event that you don't like" in a couple. We'll often bring my (single) sister along with us because it's easier for her that way also. Above all I try to make sure events I am helping to host set people up, all kinds of people, for success most of the time. But it does mean that sometimes I'm stuck inviting five people to join me for dinner (or a movie, or an outing) and no one shows up. It happens. The big deal, for me, is not turning that into some sort of mope session. i say no to invites a lot, makes sense other people would too.

I love these NYT pieces where 28 year olds lament getting older and the trials that come with it. I am always like "You do not know the HALF of it" I say, as someone nearly twice their age.
posted by jessamyn at 9:34 AM on January 5 [8 favorites]


Additional introversion info YSK that this "meeting people" does not limit itself to face to face. After spending years in a job which near its end started ramping up more and more meetings via conference call, I found myself completely drained -- "kanban"-style daily calls involving a whole bunch of people listening in -- and did not know it until after the big lay-off how much it had drained me. I cannot regain the will to join that kind of workforce again.

Adding to Merus comment above, Tabletop board games and roleplaying sums up my limit of regular get-togethers, one near weekly and the other bi-monthly provides plenty of social activity with a new member cycling in and out of each group every so often during the years.
posted by filtergik at 9:50 AM on January 5


There are cats who, as soon as they meet you and gauge that you're friendly, will rub against your leg and hop up on the sofa next to you and happily accept pets and even curl up on your lap before long if you continue to give them positive attention.

And there are cats that will give you a wary eye from the start, squirm and yowl if you pick them up, be content to be in a room near you but shy away from direct interaction, and then one day long after your routine is set and familiar, you feel an unexpected head-bonk on your arm one evening and you give it a surprised look and the cat looks at you like "..WELL? This is what you wanted all along, right?"

And so go people, too.
posted by delfin at 10:30 AM on January 5 [10 favorites]


Siiiigh.

I'm an extrovert, and in school I was a connector, linking people together into groups.

Then I moved.

Where I live now, I've made multiple attempts at forming friendships - inviting people over, keeping in touch - they've all fizzled out. At this point, in my current location, I have given up completely. I am resigned to keeping in touch long-distance with existing friends and otherwise being a social hermit.

BUT. We are moving! To somewhere with a much friendlier reputation. So I am really, really hoping things improve and this isn't just The Way Adulthood Is Going To Be From Now On.
posted by Cozybee at 11:05 AM on January 5 [5 favorites]


I am a wee bit surprised no one has discussed making friends at work, which is how I made my friends after college. I made them at the places I worked. And some of them, after I stopped working at those places, were still friends. In fact, some of them only became true friends after I left those places of work.

Supposedly (cannot find the link) it takes something like 50 hours of time spent together for people to become close friends. That’s pretty easy to do at work, even if you aren’t spending 50 hours together sharing your deepest personal secrets. I have not had a 9-to-5 office job in many many years and that makes finding friends more challenging now. Because I go to a regular Al-Anon meeting, often every week, it is possible I will be able to make some new friends in Sweden through that meeting as I did through my home meeting in California. I made myself go out today after my meeting with a group of people from the fellowship to a café because how else will I get to know any of these people better?

I consider myself a gregarious introvert. I am chatty and I enjoy listening to other people. But after that I need to go home alone and curl up in a ball for bit to recover. So I don’t know that labels are particularly useful for me. With my closest friends, I can pick up from where we left off and it does not feel as though we’ve been apart any time at all. With my closest friends, I can be honest about whatever pain or struggle I am facing and they can be honest about the same. I’m not actually looking for new friends to dump on, but I am looking for people here who are willing to talk about things that they feel deeply about and that affect them personally.

Relationships can be hard, and that sometimes includes friendships. One friend and I had an agreement that either of us could cancel our plans together for any reason with any notice, including none, and there would be no penalty whatsoever. I loved that agreement. Because sometimes life feels just too hard to go see someone, even someone you love. Maybe that agreement, though, is partly why that friend and I are no longer friends. Or maybe we just grew apart. I will say that I also love and appreciate people who are super clear about what they like. Friends who will say, for example, “there is not enough money in the world to pay me to go see that movie with you but you can come over after and hang out.” Those people are the best.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:17 PM on January 5 [4 favorites]


expect that when you are placed into an environment with several other people whom you do not know as well or may not know at all, you will act and socialize in a way that will make each of them ALSO feel at ease in your presence."

Funny, as a host I don't expect this of folks I invite, I feel like it's up to me to invite a good combo and make sure everyone is comfortable. As a guest, however ... I do feel a lot of anxiety about going to a party where I don't know m/any other people, and I feel pressure to display social gifts I don't actually have. The last party I showed up for, I spent a few minutes catching up with the guests I knew, met one or two new people, then escaped to a dark corner with the dog, and then left early. I didn't traumatize the pets, cry openly or get into pointless arguments about grammar, so I'm telling myself I crushed it. (Of course an actual sit-down dinner is different and can be completely amazing or miserable, and it's much harder to slip out early).

I know an extrovert who will invite me to get coffee - then when I show up for what I think will be an easy, casual, one-on-one thing I discover 30 of her best friends are also there. I nope out real fast and have started declining her coffee invites.

Anyway, what I'd like to learn is how to get to that one-on-one hangout place a lot faster. It's slow going at this point in my life.
posted by bunderful at 12:21 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


Introvert/socially anxious person here. I find myself getting invited more frequently to group activities lately: board games, lunch out. No close friendships have developed, and I'm not sure I have the spoons for a close friendship anyway. One of these every weekend or so meets my need for social interaction and doesn't drain my very limited battery.

I'm probably looking at a move this year, perhaps within the state, perhaps not. However, I'm fortunate to belong to a couple of 12 step groups, and many (not all) larger groups often go out to lunch/dinner and extend the invite to whomever wants to come. Doing service within the group also makes one a familiar face.

Speaking of dinner and "strangers": One of the nicest things I've run into recently wrt dinners among loose social connections happened during a visit to France last Christmas, when the English-speaking expat 12-steppers invited everyone out for dinner after a meeting. I was unlikely to see anyone there again, so... no pressure.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 12:33 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


the dinner party invite says "I feel at ease in your presence, and expect that when you are placed into an environment with several other people whom you do not know as well or may not know at all, you will act and socialize in a way that will make each of them ALSO feel at ease in your presence."

I kicked off my previous comment trying to address this, but I want to reiterate: this isn't introversion, this is lacking skills in social interaction. You can be an introvert and not be stressed in social situations, but it still requires an expenditure of energy. Thankfully, these social skills can be learned from books, even if you're behind the eight-ball thanks to having a brain that doesn't pick up on certain social cues easily. Much like someone who learns English as a second language, you'll probably be better at it, on average, than people who learned it via osmosis without any formal underpinnings.
posted by Merus at 11:54 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


I think you meant well, Merus, but it might come across as condescending to tell other grown adults that you think the problem is that they lack social skills, which they can learn from a book.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 3:29 AM on January 6 [2 favorites]


Found one link on hours required to develop friendships from Psychology Today. Here is a link to the abstract of a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

...Just how many hours of togetherness does it take for an acquaintance to turn into a friend? Or for a friend to rise to the level of best friend? And does it matter what you spend all that time doing? For the first time, there are answers: 50 hours, more than 200 hours, and yes, it does matter.

These answers come from a newly published report in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships by Jeffrey Hall, a professor of communications studies at the University of Kansas. Hall was motivated in part by the work of evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar of the University of Oxford, who theorizes that there are layers of friendship — e.g., acquaintances, casual friends, friends, and good friends — and that there are cognitive limits to the number of people that we can accommodate in any one layer. ...

“I was looking for cut-off points,” says Hall, “where there was a 50 percent greater likelihood you switch from acquaintance to casual and from casual to friend, then again from friend to a close friend.” He found that it took about 50 hours of interaction to move from acquaintance to casual friend, about 90 hours to move from casual friend to friend, and more than 200 hours to qualify as a best friend.

... How people spent their time and what they talked about affected how close they became. “When you spend time joking around, having meaningful conversations, catching up with one another, all of these types of communication episodes contribute to speedier friendship development,” Hall says. As an example, he describes the common situation in which two casual friends bump into each other, and one asks the other: "What’s been going on in your life?" “That action is meaningful because it says that whatever is happening in your life I want to bring into the present in my relationship with you,” says Hall. “Consider how many people you don’t bother to ask. You wander into the office and you say, hey. That’s it.”


TL;DR: You can spend plenty of time with people at work or elsewhere but if you don't like each other (obviously) or if you never talk about meaningful things and/or you never see each other outside of work or class or whatever, then these people will remain acquaintances. Which is totally fine, of course, if you do not want friends. I am doing well enough on the friend front overall, but I miss the best friend I had in high school. She was amazing, and our friendship was a wonderful thing.
posted by Bella Donna at 5:49 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Making friends at work is not easy, nor always ideal either. Friendship often requires showing vulnerability, which is the opposite of what most of us are or try to be in a professional work environment. And also there are times when a personal relationship gets into conflict with a professional obligation. Finally, a more recent development is that some companies purposefully create environments that replicate that period in college (including trying to have everyone be friends) in order to get their employees to stay at work longer.
posted by FJT at 9:25 AM on January 6 [5 favorites]


I’ve come to translate “I’m an introvert” as “I don’t want to put work into my friendships.” There are exceptions to this of course, but I’m pretty tired of organizing all the events and dinner parties.

I'm a severe introvert. I have no problems with organizing events and dinner parties - the problem comes with "start and maintain topics of conversation at said events." I'm fine with supporting the logistics or even hosting, but the parts of "host event" that translate to "say hello to people at the door, figure out what they want to be comfortable, ask them how their week has gone" are stressful enough for me that I'd rather skip the whole thing than be in charge of those.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:47 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]


On the most recent MF podcast, posted yesterday, jessamyn gave this thread a shoutout that was surprisingly long (to me) and thoughtful (not surprising). Thanks, jessamyn.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:10 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


I kicked off my previous comment trying to address this, but I want to reiterate: this isn't introversion, this is lacking skills in social interaction. You can be an introvert and not be stressed in social situations, but it still requires an expenditure of energy.

Well, I'll be diplomatic about this and approach it from another angle.

Social situations take a lot of different forms, and some people find some sorts more intimidating than others. Very often, introversion and lack-of-social-interaction-skills go hand-in-hand -- one may tend to shy away from social engagements in general if their early attempts at doing so often fare poorly, for example -- but, yes, they are two distinct states of mind. There are certainly people out there who enjoy the company of others and are completely oblivious to the fact that they're terrible at it, as well as people who are quite capable at social interaction but simply prefer to avoid it, or to do so only on their own terms.

But in simplest terms, if you find engaging with people to be draining rather than stimulating and enjoyable, or if connecting with strangers is more stressful to you than with those whom you're already familiar, it shouldn't be hard to work out that a dinner party full of unknowns can be a recipe for severe discomfort. With or without a book.

Sure, I could expend the energy and learn how to fake it. But I only have so much energy, and I'd rather use it in ways that don't give me diarrhea, unless I'm feeling particularly quirky that week.
posted by delfin at 3:46 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


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